The Edward Thorp Gallery is pleased to present hooked mats of the Grenfell Mission. The Grenfell Mission was a medical mission active in Newfoundland and Labrador in the first half of the 20th century. In 1906 Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established the Industrial Department, which was set up to help develop cottage industries, producing hooked mats and other industrial products. The mat industry became an increasingly important source of income, reaching peak production in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Decades old by the time the Grenfell Mission began, the roots of mat hooking lay with the early English and Scottish settlers. The women all hooked, most from their earliest childhood. For generations Newfoundland women had augmented their family's unreliable fishing income in the quiet months of February and March that became known as the matting season.
In 1928, the Industrial sent out a plea through the mission's quarterly publication, Among the Deep Sea Fishers, "Save Your Old Silk Stockings! When your stockings run let them run to Labrador! Along with burlap the creative recycling of tattered stockings is just one of many innovations that make Grenfell hooked mats highly collectible folk art. The mats have become renowned for their excellent design, rigorous craftsmanship, and distinctive images chronicling maritime life in the northeast. They represent the development of a local craft that grew into an internationally acclaimed art form.
These works have not been seen since the notable exhibits "Northern Scenes: Hooked Art of the Grenfell Mission at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City in 1994 and of "Silk Stocking Mats" at the Shelburne Museum in 1996 and “Matting Season” at the Textile Museum of Canada a traveling exhibit 1999-2002. This will be the first exhibit since and the first in a fine arts context, approximately 30 works will be presented. A book on the history of silk stocking mats authored by Paula Laverty will be available during the exhibition.